Monday, November 23, 2009

Breast is best.

Nursing at 10,000 ft.

I've put off writing this post because I'm pretty sure I'm going to offend some people. But I've finally decided to just bite the bullet, so here goes.

As mothers, we make many of what I like to refer to as "lifestyle choices." Cloth vs. disposable. Working mom vs. stay at home. Infant seat vs. convertible. But here's the bottom line: BREASTFEEDING IS NOT A LIFESTYLE CHOICE.

Just as our bodies were created with the internal structures necessary to create babies, we were created with the tools necessary to feed them. Why do we doubt our bodies' abilities to feed our babies? It seems like women today have serious trust issues with ourselves- we doubt our ability to birth without medical intervention and/or pain medication, too, but that's another post.

To the new moms out there: I'm sorry if you're tired. I'm sorry if you're frustrated. Aren't we all? But why not try to adapt your technique before you give up and pick up a bottle. Have your husband make sure to bring you food and water while you're nursing- maybe throw in a back/neck massage, too. Co-sleeping can make a huge difference in the amount of sleep you can get as a breastfeeding mom. And I'm not opposed to the occasional bottle of pumped milk given in a pinch.

Are you really too embarrassed to use your breasts for what they're made for? I've heard this excuse from the same women I see exposing more boob in their bikinis at the beach than nursing their babies.
A. Get a nursing cover.
B. Buy/rent a pump. Pump at home and carry expressed milk in a bottle with you when you're out and about.

Are you having "technical" issues with latch/soreness/etc? Talk to a lactation consultant/La Leche League leader. They are professionals and the experts in this area. Don't be afraid to ask for help!

Are you a working mom? I am. In fact, I work full-time, and I'm in the military- probably the least pumping-friendly environment there is. But guess what? I can manage to find 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon to pump. I guarantee you spend that much time getting a cup of coffee. Can't you spare it for your baby? Besides, I so look forward to coming home from work, sitting down with Lucy, and feeding her. What an amazing way to regain that sense of closeness with my daughter after being away during the day!

Do you think breastfeeding is inconvenient? That's a matter of opinion. I don't know about you, but my boobs go with my everywhere. It's awfully nice not to have to worry about carrying bottles, formula, etc. with me all the time. This is especially important for the notorious night feeding. Is getting out of your nice, warm bed to fetch a bottle (assuming you have one pre-made) and waiting while it warms really that much easier than simply pulling your baby closer to you, letting him/her latch on, and drifting back to sleep together?

Also, consider this: flu season is upon us. What's the best way to protect your baby from not only the flu, but from colds, ear infections, and other illnesses? You guessed it. So what's more important to you- a few extra hours of sleep, or helping develop your baby's immune system? I guarantee you'll be getting much less sleep when he/she has the flu than from breastfeeding once or twice a night.

Granted, there are legitimate reasons justifying bottlefeeding. Some women genuinely have supply issues, but this phenomenon isn't nearly as widespread as many women believe. And even if you have a problem producing enough for your child, there are things you can do to help- from prescriptions, to herbs such as fenugreek, to simply nursing more frequently.

The bottom line: you wouldn't put your child in the car without a car seat. So why would you take your child out into the world without offering him/her the protection mother's milk provides? I snagged this video from Julie's blog, and it sums everything up nicely.

Sometimes being a mom means putting your baby's needs first, knowing that the "easy" way isn't always the best way.


Beth said...

I totally agree. I don't even understand how formula IS "easier". Okay, maybe for the first couple of weeks, but that's it. Plus, what you hear about BF babies not sleeping as much is totally not true. Eleanor's never had a drop of anything besides breast milk and she started sleeping 10-12 hours a night at 8 weeks old.

Emily said...

Amen, sister! Lucy doesn't sleep that long, but that's because we co-sleep. I mean, she never cries, I'm just more in tune with her sleep cycles, so when she wakes I immediately feed her- who knows how long she'd sleep in a crib?!?

Jenny said...

I think some of the problem is that parents know breastfeeding is best and are on board with that, BUT they go against nature in almost every other possible way. Unfortunately, that is what society encourages.

Having a traumatic birth followed by a long separation. Trusting doctor over intuition. Putting baby to sleep in a nursery down the hall and fighting the oxytocin to stay awake during every feed, even the 2 am ones. Trying to put baby on a rigid schedule rather than feeding on demand. Going back to work full-time by as little as six weeks, thinking that the crappy cheapo pump is good enough. Thinking that time and space to pump is too much to ask for at work. Giving bottles in public situations and around certain people. Giving a paci too early or too much in order to not "be the paci." (

It goes on and on. For my lifestyle, formula feeding would be 100 times more trouble. I don't even have a clue how much formula a baby needs in a day. But breastfeeding for people who are Babywise parents could be a square peg in a round hole.

I really do hate how it's usually presented as just another choice, right alongside what color to paint the nursery and whether to splurge on a convertible crib. The hospital gives out formula, so it can't be bad, because the hospital can do no wrong. If you can't afford it the government will give it to you for free. It just sends totally the wrong message.

And this doesn't even account for the women who decide they can't breastfeed due to shame and abuse issues. It's so complicated.

But, on a happier note, have you heard that next year the Joint Commission is going to start considering breastfeeding rates (and c-sections, etc) when they evaluate hospitals? Makes me sooo happy inside to think of the bigwigs at AnMed scrambling around to come up with some decent numbers in just a few short months. :-)

Denise said...

I love this post! Honestly, sometimes people may need to be "offended" to really get the reality check about what they are doing to their babies when they opt for formula.

I think the poster Jenny hit the nail on the head in many ways. A traumatic birth followed by a separation from your child, easily can disrupt that beginning head-over-heels inloveness you get from the bonding from holding your child, nursing them, smelling them and hearing their cries. There's even a push to supplement with formula because "you need sleep"! I remember being told by 2-3 NEW MOMS that I wouldn't want to room in with my baby, because I would need/want sleep. These moms all struggled with breastfeeding. Is is any surprise?

The truth is, breastfeeding can be hard (harder than formula in the beginning)... But it's for your baby's good. Like you said, would we not put our babies in carseats? No. And once you get the hang of nursing, and figure out how to nurse in public, etc, you will have an EASIER time than bottle-moms.

I think women should understand how breastfeeding supply-and-demand happens, and they would have less issues with doubting their supply. They also would not jeopardize it (for example, pushing a baby to sleep through the night too long too fast). Water, herbs, more nursing, pumping, those will all work to boost your supply if you catch it lessening soon enough. I know, I've done this!

I love that you stepped up to the plate to write this. I am inspired!!!

I have a friend who is very, very pro-breastfeeding. I used to call her a "lactavist" (she called herself that first). I now totally get why she is so interested in educating people about this, and even nursing in public on purpose to help make it come back to "norm". YEAH.

Emily, as a working mom, we all have no excuse, you have done amazing!
Here's a great link w/ 101 research-backed reasons to breastfeed:

Jennifer Harris said...

Great post! That is the way I have always felt but have never had the courage to address it on my own. I don't understand people that don't even try. It frustrates me to no end! My son had genuine latch issues and it would have been so easy to give up but I decided to work with lactation consultants non-stop until we found a solution. I am also proud to admit that in his 14 months he has never been sick other than an upset tummy and a runny nose. I attribute that to being breastfed.

Anyway, keep up the good work!

StrongFeather said...

thanks for this post!

Ed and Elizabeth said...

I completely agree with most of your post. There are so many moms who don't even try to breastfeed because they think it will be too hard, or they just don't want the "burden" of being leashed to their baby 24/7 which is kind of sick b/c I personally couldn't be away from Jack whatsoever when he was little. I still haven't spent a whole night away from him and he is 8.5 months old. Anyways...the part I feel you should cut moms some slack is the going back to work moms.

I breastfed Jack for almost 6 months. When I solely breastfed there was no problem. I did have to work at it initially b/c he was in the NICU for 3 days. Once we finally got the hang of it I LOVED it. I agree you don't have to get up and make bottles, I would just put him on and fall back asleep, waking momentarily to switch sides. I pretty much would sleep with him in the bed even though it made Ed nervous (I would just always be sure to end on the side that didn't put Jack in the middle). :)

When I went back to work I pumped every 3 hours even though it was VERY difficult working at a hospital with patients who need you all the time. I pumped and pumped...but somehow my boobs just didn't "put out" for the pump. I tried expensive pumps, hand pumps, etc. My stock started to diminish. At that point I tried Fenugreek, mother's milk tea, EVERYTHING I could to perk up my supply.

Since I worked 3 days in a row and I was gone for 14+ hours at a time my supply really started to diminish. At first I had to supplement a little bit and after awhile it just dwindled to the point that I was exhausted and Jack wasn't getting enough to eat. I pretty much was forced to give up and I put him on formula.

I HATED formula. I am a pediatric nurse and have to deal with it all the time with patients and it makes me gag. The only one I could tolerate for Jack was the Organic so that is what he has been on for the past 3 months. Honestly he was happier because he got plenty to eat and he has never had an issue. If I could quit work altogether and breastfeed him for a year I would.

Now I look at his sharp little teeth and wonder how far I would have gotten...

Anyways, if you can pump and get sufficient output good for you....keep at it and give that baby liquid gold until 1 year or more!! Just give a few moms a break who were good at breastfeeding...just not good at pumping.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% it is not a choice it is what we are designed and obliged to do.

I fully intend to breastfeed my next for at least 18 months again and will be donating my milk also. My 20 month old was exclusively breast fed for the first 6 months and she slept through from 6 weeks so the idea that bf babies don't sleep well isn't true.